German woman kidnapped in Baghdad freed: Iraqi officials

Hella Mewis was kidnapped on Monday shortly after leaving her job at the Bait Tarkib collective in the Iraqi capital.

A German woman kidnapped earlier this week in Baghdad has been freed, according to Iraqi officials.

Iraq’s military spokesman Yahya Rasool said in a statement on Friday that Hella Mewis was freed by security forces, without providing additional details.

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A spokesman for Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council, Abdelsattar Bayraqdar, said the operation overnight had been backed by an investigative court in the Iraqi capital.

“We are still investigating this crime,” he said.

Mewis has lived in Baghdad for several years, where she worked on establishing the Bait Tarkib collective, which aims to promote the work of young local artists.

She was abducted by unidentified attackers shortly after leaving her office at the art collective on Monday.

“She was riding her bicycle when two cars, one of them a white pick-up truck [of the type] used by some security forces, were seen kidnapping her,” AFP news agency quoted a security source as saying at the time.

Mewis’s phone was still unreachable on Friday and her friends had not heard from her. The German embassy in Baghdad had no immediate comment.

A friend of Mewis told AFP she had been worried following the killing of Hisham al-Hashemi, an Iraqi scholar who had been supportive of anti-establishments demonstrations that erupted last year amid growing frustration over corruption, lack of basic services and persistent economic woes.

“I spoke to her [Mewis] last week and she was really involved in the protests too, so she was nervous after the assassination,” said the friend, Dhikra Sarsam.

In May, a United Nations report said dozens of Iraqi protesters had disappeared during five months of protests. The report did not name who might be behind the abductions, but pointed to “the involvement of armed actors with substantial levels of organisation and access to resources”.

The past year has also seen a spike in foreigners’ abduction.

On New Year’s Eve, two French freelance journalists were taken hostage for 36 hours and three French NGO workers were held for two months.

In both cases, neither the kidnappers nor the conditions of their releases were revealed.

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